Day 31: Happy Halloween

We don’t celebrate Halloween here in Australia. Although it seems more kids are out trick or treating every year. While I don’t have a real problem with this (although my kids don’t and won’t do it) it seems Aussie kids don’t always understand what to do. For instance last year I had four kids rock up, knock on my door and chant “Trick or Treat” while dressed in school uniform! Now because we don’t actually do it I would suggest you make an effort if you are going to!!!! I also have a very simple rule, if my dogs bark you get nothing! So those kids who were banging saucepans surprisingly got asked to leave! So some friendly advice to Aussie kids wanting to go trick or treating – make a really big effort with your costumes and be polite! Any way although we don’t celebrate we are Australian and are always up for a party! Obi and Stitch got in the zone today! Until next time – have fun!

INZARED, Queen of the Elephant Riders by L.Leander

It is my pleasure to introduce you to L.Leander, author of INZARED, Queen of the Elephant Riders. The inspiration for this story comes from…..

I have always had an overactive imagination.  When I was a child growing up in Michigan I dreamed of seeing the world and after I read Toby Tyler I was determined join the circus.   The settings and animals drew me in.  When the circus came to our small farming community it was a really big deal.  My siblings and I begged our parents to take us and once there I was entranced by the sights and sounds; the hustle and bustle; the calls of the food hawkers, the smells of cotton candy and popcorn mixed with the odor of hay and animal dung.  It held a fascination for me I can’t explain.  I read everything I could get my hands on at the library and planned my escape.  Mind you, I had a wonderful childhood and didn’t want to run away for any reason other than the excitement and anticipation of wanting to be part of something so grand and exciting.  I was especially taken with an elephant that did tricks and a woman in a glittery costume who rode him in the ring.  She looked so grand and happy.  I was determined to be just like her when I grew up.

Of course, the next year I decided to be something else when I was older and put dreams of the circus away.  The one thing I remember about those young days is that my mother was supportive.  She told me I could be whatever I wanted to be (and I didn’t have to run away).  Smart woman!  I never lost my fascination with the circus, though.  As an adult I am still interested in all things circus.  I lead my children in a 4-H Clowning class.  I have been to several circuses since those young days and it never loses the magic.

 Q) Tell us about your novel, INZARED, Queen of the Elephant Riders. Where did you get the idea for this story and how did you include research into your writing?

I didn’t really decide to write about the circus – it chose me.  I sat down one night and the words flew from my fingers faster than I could type them.  Inzared demanded to be heard and I loved meeting her, the Gypsy circus family who took her in and, especially, Cecil the elephant.

Inzared was an interesting character to write about.  She spoke to me in her local dialect from the Appalachian hills of North Carolina.  I actually wrote the entire book initially in that voice but changed it to be more readable. She comes from a different type of family than mine, misunderstood by her parents and very poor.  She knows there is a big world outside her little mountain home and when an opportunity comes she seizes it and never looks back.  That isn’t to say she doesn’t feel guilty – she just knows it’s something she has to do.

Research is my favorite part of writing.  I have pages of notes and have been in contact with circus museum curators all over the world.  They are a wonderful bunch of people, gladly answering my questions about circus trivia in pre-Civil war America.  I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Gypsy people, who are often misunderstood and are close-knit people.  As I said, I have read everything I can get my hands on about circus performers and the lives they lead.  There seems to be a common thread in these folks – confidence and the desire to entertain.  I tried to incorporate those traits in my characters.

Q) Have you drawn inspiration from other aspects of your life to develop your writing, if so where does that inspiration come from?

A lot of inspiration was way of life during the time period I write in (mid 1800’s).  I have done Civil War Reenactment with my brother and sister-in-law and we actually live life during those reenactments exactly as it would have been in the day.  Growing up in small farming communities in Michigan I learned to be self-sufficient, growing gardens, canning, sewing, cooking, churning butter, butchering and the like.   As an avid camper I am a self-taught “campfire cook” so know well how to prepare all kinds of succulent food in primitive circumstances.  It was comparatively easy for me to write these scenes.  I based Inzared’s character on a 4-H teacher I had in my teens.  She was from North Carolina, had a heart as big as the ocean, was confident and naïve at the same time, could do all sorts of things well, and always had a smile on her face.  She accepted the life she was dealt and I never heard her complain, even though a lot of obstacles were thrown in her path.  She was a strong woman and laughingly called herself a “hillbilly.”

Q) What’s next? Are you currently working on another project, can you give us some details of what we might expect to read in the future?

I am currently working on the second in the INZARED series.  The working title is INZARED, The Middle Years, although that may change.  I am editing the manuscript at present with plans to publish it in October of 2012.  I am making notes and have ideas for a third book and will begin work on that this winter.  My husband and I spend our winter months in Mexico and it is a very creative community with an excellent Writer’s Group.  I do most of my writing and editing there, saving advertising and PR for the summer months when I am back in the US.  I also write a blog on WordPress and a series of non-fiction  “how-to” blogs on Blogger.  My plan is to incorporate some of those blogs into more eBooks when INZARED is finished with me.  Who knows what’s next?  I’ll wait for the next character to speak!

INZARED, Queen of the Elephant Riders is available on as a Kindle eBook currently.  I would love to have a print version, although I may wait until the series is complete.

Thanks for taking the time to introduce us to INZARED, Queen of the Elephant Rider. We’ll keep our eye out for future projects! In the meantime, check out the book trailer:

INZARED, Queen of the Elephant Riders can also be found at the following links:

Amazon Link:


FB Author Page:

L.Leander Blog:

Day 30: Goals Achieved!

At the start of the ultimate blog challenge I set myself some personal and some writing goals. This month I have finished two first drafts (one picture book and the sequel to Obi the Super Puppy and the Mystery of the Red Mist). I have almost finished an edit of another manuscript – although while doing this I have decided to do a complete re-write (without looking at my original for the next month!) of this story for the NaNoWriMo. This way at the end of November I can put the two versions together and come up with one really fantastic story. It is very much needed and I can’t wait to get started with that. I have completed my entry for Tales 2 Inspire, and will be submitting that later this week. I have also had my next children’s novel – The Homework Goblin edited and am ready to submit that for publishing. On top of this I have had an edit done on a story I wrote with my daughter – it’s got a lot of work, but at least I have a good platform.

Personally I started a new fitness program and have completed it every week over the four weeks. I am now ready to step it up another notch. I have cleaned out most of my house, getting rid of a lot of junk. There are still a few rooms to tackle, but should be done by Christmas, so pretty happy about that.

On top of all that I have blogged everyday, managed to achieve my 100th blog and I have attempted to read many of the wonderful blogs of others. I haven’t read as many as I would have liked, but I have bookmarked them for later. Thank you to all the people who have read and commented on my posts.

 In general I am pretty happy with the last month! I will attempt to blog on my progress with the NaNoWriMo. Obviously I will be busy writing – very exciting. Of course in the middle of the month I am off to a conference for work, so will try and get ahead before that! I think that was most of my goals. It has been a hectic month, but a lot of fun! It’s Halloween tomorrow so will do another post then – as always have fun!

Day 29: Happy Birthday!

Today is my husbands birthday. the one thing we always do is have a special cake. My girls put in the order (often 6 months in advance) and I go crazy in the kitchen trying to make it. Over the years the girls have had mickey mouse, daisy duck, elmo, cookie monster, Little Miss Chatter Box and a princess cake. This year they made me work a bit harder. My eldest had Snow White and the Seven Smurfs on a Pirate Ship! My little one had Ariel. Now Ariel wasn’t supposed to be that hard. As always I was on a tight schedule and when attempting to cut the licorice for her hair I managed to chop off a piece of my thumb. Ariel very nearly had blood red hair!!!!

Any way my husband gets lucky, the girls pick his cake, often with the Halloween theme. Last year it was Scooby Doo, which turned out to be one of the easiest cakes I have made. This year he asked for a ghost to take to work and of course the girls wanted a witch. So here they are! Until tomorrow – have fun!

Day 28: mmmmm not mother of the year!!!!

Yeah, I’m going for mother of the year, not. I just caught my daughter attempting to play her Disney Stitch Trouble game with her foot! My comment “If you put your foot on that I will chop it off!!!” Yeah, talk about empty threats. Still it worked and sometimes that’s all that counts! I’m not alone in this house. Their father has been known to yell down the hallway “If you don’t hurry up you’re not going to childcare!” this always made me laugh. Could you imagine calling into work – sorry I can’t be there today my kids were too slow and dad told them they couldn’t go to childcare??? Mmmmm well actually I’m sure many a boss has had worse excuses. Still who would that really punish?


Day 27: Ian Myers Photography

Today I thought I’d do a plug for a friend. Ian Myers did the photo on the cover of my Obi book and as my daughter’s God father has been our friend for years. His photography is fantastic and can be viewed on his face book page (see below). He is currently celebrating 100 likes on Facebook! Let’s see if we can get him a few more. So if you like photography then check his page out!

2011… Epson International Panoramic Competition… “SILVER”!/pages/Ian-Myers-Photography/263955923652628

We are holding a Face book page party soon – more details later!!!!

There is also a link to Ian’s  Page from my face book page, so feel free to share both!!!!!/AuthorAshleyHowland

Until tomorrow – have fun!

Day 26: Friday Funnies Again

1 . I will not eat the cats’ food before they eat it or after they throw it! up.

2. I will not roll on dead seagulls, fish, crabs, etc., just because I like the way they smell.

3. The Litter Box is not a cookie jar.

4. The sofa is not a ‘face towel’.

5. The garbage collector is not stealing our stuff.

6. I will not play tug-of-war with Dad’s underwear when he’s on the toilet.

7. Sticking my nose into someone’s crotch is an unacceptable way of saying “hello”.

8. I don’t need to suddenly stand straight up when I’m under the coffee table.

9. I must shake the rainwater out of my fur before entering the house – not after.

10. I will not come in from outside and immediately drag my butt.

11. I will not sit in the middle of the living room and lick my crotch.

12. The cat is not a ‘squeaky toy’ so when I play with him and he makes that noise, it’s usually not a good thing.

I guess I should also add: do not use the kids as pillows, noo matter how soft!! Until tomorrow – have fun!

Day 25: 100 Blogs, 100 Dogs

Okay well not quite although I’m sure I get close. At last count there were 91 dogs that have been involved in Labs ‘n Life over the past five years (including the pre program set up). Then of course we just had six more puppies and there are at least three more litters due before the end of the year. So I could well say that there are more than 100 dogs!!!!

For my 100th blog I thought I’d just share a few of my favourites!

The dogs are always up for a good party and they love to wear their party hats! So to celebrate my 100th blog here are some beautiful party shots!

Stitch loves to sing at the parties!!! He’s very musical!


Aussie parties are always fun, any excuse to have a BBQ. The boys especially love it when the snags fall off the plates!


And Finally as always have fun – this time Labby style and laugh with my monster Stitch!

Introducing L.Leander

I would like to introduce you to another author: L.Leander.

L.Leander was born in Michigan and lived in small-town farming communities most of her life.  Later, she was able to travel extensively and gained a broader aspect of the world and places she had always dreamed of visiting.  Ms. Leander graduated from Hillman Community School and is an alumnus of Hot Springs Beauty Academy, where she also taught cosmetology.

“I was lucky growing up, with parents who urged me to reach for my dreams, says Ms. Leander.  “My father was a musician/songwriter who taught me to play the guitar and I played and sang with him all of my life.  He was the inspiration for my songwriting.  My mother was a farm girl who was an excellent horsewoman, painted, sewed, cooked, and even built furniture!  As the eldest child I was very fortunate to inherit many of their best traits, I think.  Both of my parents loved to read and I don’t remember ever not having a book in my hand.  Many a night I got in trouble for reading with a flashlight under the covers when I should have been sleeping.  I had two teachers in high school, band teacher Mr. Switzer and English teacher Mrs. Livingston, who inspired me to succeed.  Both saw talents I didn’t realize I had and pushed me to do more.”

“Living in a farming community I learned to do a lot of interesting things.  Cooking, canning, milking, butchering, sewing, cooking, gardening, and churning butter were all things I know how to do that gave me background for my writing.  The rest is research, perhaps my favorite part of the writing process.”

Ms. Leander has two children, two sisters, and one brother.  She currently spends the winter months in Mazatlan, Mexico with her husband, Ralph, and the summer months in Wisconsin.

Next week I will post an interview with Ms. Leander, about her novel: INZARED, Queen of the Elephant Riders. Until then get writing, get reading!

Day 24: Writing Tips

Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring authors?

Write, write, write and then when you’ve had enough writing read. The best way to improve or inspire yourself is to immerse yourself in the creativity of others. Read everything, stories for different ages, themes, genres, just read and enjoy reading, because that’s how you want people to feel when they read your work.

The final piece of advice is to live, go out, meet people, go places and see amazing things. Play with kids, dogs, friends, just live and enjoy life. Then bring that enjoyment into your writing, if you love it and have fun doing it then your readers will love it too.

Woohoooo Tomorrow marks my 100th blog, better come up with something good!

Until tomorrow – have fun!